I never realized how hard it must be to write a novelization of a video game until I started doing one.
So sometime back I had started working on a novelization of Spiral Island, beginning a project to novelize the entire trilogy. Over the time since then I had done expansion of the story, fleshing out things that were still not in place yet and writing The Pocketwatch, The Wristwatch, and the whole Grand Game setting that serves as a prelude to the events of Spiral Island. I've also planned out the complete book layout for part 2 of the trilogy, mostly decided what I want for part 3 and just need to decide the order it's presented. But in all of that time, trying to finish, or even work much on the first book, has been met with a problem: I wrote the game first, and not the other way around.
With parts 2 and 3 I only had a general plot for the games, and not a strict script. That made it pretty easy to write a book outline for those, because I was able to lay out the details of the book as one would naturally develop a book. But part 1 wasn't planned that way. It's already a fully planned and plotted game script (just waiting for production), and the entire story was written with a game in mind. And therein lies the problem: the script has gameplay in mind. There's events, interactions, plot lines that are in there for gameplay reasons more than anything else, and those don't translate well to a novel. And that leads to the problem. With me being the author of both the game and the novel, how do I rectify the two? What can be cut, what isn't necessary in the novel, how do I present the novel in such a way that the novel is the "canon" version of the story, while at the same time the game is also the "canon" version of the story? Because everything that happens in the game happens to the characters, just not everything that happens in the game would make for an entertaining novel.
This is a problem that had been plaguing me for a while already, while I've been writing around it and developing the story in other parts of the timeline. And as I started experimenting more with it lately, I came up with a different way to tell it, by recounting the tale in a different fashion, and reflowing the event order into a new form, that allows me to both tell the story in a novelized form, leave out things that wouldn't be interesting in a novel, while at the same time allowing both the game and the novel exist together, each in their own forms, without one of them causing a problem for the other. And that's the way I want it, because, while a video game is my prime medium I want to tell it in, I also want it to be accessible in another form for those that don't want to sit through and play it as a game.
But just as I was finally starting to realize the way this could be done, a whole new problem presented. As I did some calculations about the logistics of a problem that occurs months before the start of the game's story (which is something you learn in the back nine of the game, but with this novel reflow I've moved to the prologue of the book as part of the new way the story's presented), a conversation came up with one of my coworkers starting as a joke, then spread to the regulars of Notebook Forums, that made me realize I had a whole new aspect I hadn't considered about that event: the psychological impacts it would have had on Amy because of it. And the general consensus of it from everybody else (including an actual psychologist by occupation) was that my thoughts on the effects were wrong. It really made me realize I hadn't even considered that aspect in the first place, even though I had been trying to keep psychology in mind with my character design. So I've taken a step back, dived into the DSM again, and began evaluating what would happen, what the effects were, and what impacts it would have to bring her from the chaos she would be in there to the more ordered person I've got her as in the story of the game. And on a higher level, I realized I never have done much work on her profile at all, and that I really have a lot more work to do to flesh her out to rectify all of it together. I think I have some idea of what I'm doing now, but it's going to take a lot more reading of the DSM and other psychological reports and things to truly bring this all together.
At the end of the day there's one thing I know: had I finished this game and released it back when I was in high school, I would have sabotaged the story irreversibly. I was absolutely and completely not experienced or mature enough of a writer to tell this story then. Nor was I when I started doing it as an XNA project. Not adequately, anyway, not the way I wanted the story when I came up with the concepts for it without fully understanding their implications. And I don't know if I am now, either. I probably have a lot more to consider before I can tell this right. But I want it done right, so when it is finally done, it truly is done, and not a mess I have to try and clean up more later. And so the work continues.Tue, 12 Feb 2013 14:00:00 -0600